Time for an unpopular opinion…
I loved Tom Hardy’s representation of Bane. I liked the voice. I liked his costume. I liked his character. Bane was the high part of the movie for me. He was consistently the most interesting character in the movie. Bane also felt more real than any other character. I’m saying that to say this: I won’t be dragging Bane…he was the best thing about the movie.
Everybody else is fair game…
As much as I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises, I will readily admit that this was an odd movie. Many of the writing decisions and characterizations were just….off. It’s really difficult to explain but the returning cast members are written strangely in this movie.
When we last left Bruce in The Dark Knight eight years ago, He was just mastering his off putting Scream Whisper. In the last eight years, Bruce became a recluse and Batman disappeared but virtually nobody figured out the connection. Batman comes back and leads the police on an epic chase, for the express purpose of….showing off his new stuff.
In the last eight years living as a hobbled shut in, Bruce has managed to stay in near fighting shape, grow a healing factor and has mastered the art of Instant Transmission. I mean how else did he get back to Gotham so quickly after escaping from a subterranean prison with a broken back?
Putting aside some of the gaping plot holes that surround Bruce’s story arc, his character was written rather strangely. My single biggest gripe about this trilogy is that we never see Bruce at his best. In The Dark Knight, Bruce is just coming into his own as Batman. The character is forged by the tragedies he experiences, so it would have been awesome to see him use the losses he experienced in the second movie to get better at his job. Instead, we got an out of touch, out of shape yet overconfident Bruce. He was rather unlikable. It wasn’t the obnoxious crap that Bruce uses to disguise his actions as Batman in previous films, rather it was his character. He was brash and did some piss poor detective work. He was an asshole to poor Alfred and deserved every bit of the beating that Bane gave him. Speaking of Alfred.
Talk about a change. Alfred went from being Bruce’s right hand and his source of strength to being nerfed and put on a bus for the second and third acts of The Dark Knight Rises. He inspired Bruce to carry on after the love of his life was blown into bits by the Joker. Alfred came across as a nagging, ineffectual liar. He kept the truth about Rachel’s decision a secret and it essentially destroyed Bruce’s life. At any point during those eight years, Alfred could have easily said, “Hey Master Bruce, I know you are mourning the death of the the life you thought you had with Rachel, but I burned a note she left you saying that she’s choosing the other guy. I did it to protect your feelings at the time. I’m sorry. It’s time to stop being a reclusive shut in. Please take a shower. You smell like the inside of a fake leg.” It’s almost like Alfred knew how worthless he was being in the movie and fired himself.
Gordon was in an odd place in this movie. He was a lame duck in his role as Commissioner. He was oddly powerless even though he was Gotham’s Top Cop. He gets assaulted in the sewers of Gotham…and nobody cares. The Gotham PD has ZERO curiosity about what happened to their boss in the sewers. Gordon literally turned into the corrupt, dirty cop that got Harvey and Rachel killed in The Dark Knight. He was kind of a difficult guy to root for in this movie. Instead of trusting the people of Gotham with the truth about what happened eight years ago, he kept every secret and set the stage for Bane and Talia to take over the city.
By your failures combined….
The Dark Knight Rises is a comedy of errors. Batman defined being ineffective for the first two acts of the movie. He just couldn’t get right. He got outmaneuvered by Selena, Bane, Daggett and Talia. He failed in every conceivable way. This movie was just a chain of Batman and Team Batman screwing up in incrementally more disastrous ways culminating in Gotham’s football getting disappeared and the entire police force playing a live action game of Dig Dug.
The thing that made The Dark Knight Rises such an odd movie was the third act. The final act of this movie was just a strange convergence of storylines that seemed more focused on being epic than telling a satisfying story. It was out of place. Batman’s return to Gotham after his epic escape from the Prison was underwhelming. His final battle with Bane looked to a glorious throwdown and it fizzled out like a wet firecracker. This stands in contrast to everything that leads up to the final battle.
Walk through this logic.
Batman not only heals from a broken back but climbs a wall that nobody had successfully navigated for decades, makes it back the the States without any access to his money or resources, sneaks into a city under military surveillance, regains access to his personal armory, fights through a crowd of bloodthirsty convicts to come face to face with the man who broke him, beat that man into submission only to get shanked up and have to be saved from the guy he just pummeled by Selena Kyle?
From there the story kind of limps into the climax and the conclusion was a generic snuff ending fake-out that was so dull that I won’t even bother to recap it. Bottom line is…while this was the conclusion of the franchise, it felt disconnected from the narrative of the first two films. I thought having Bane and Talia as the villains worked but the execution felt strange. Trying to shoehorn a plot twist/shocking reveal was unnecessary and it undermined all the work that went into establishing Bane as a legitimate threat. Remember how Bane and his squad conquered a major American city and punked the US Government into inaction? I don’t think the writers did. Bane died off screen and forgotten in a pool of missed narrative opportunities.
The Dark Knight Rises and the franchise in general works best as an Elseworld. A vision of Batman levered to a world where Batman is as fantastic as heroes get. The Dark Knight Rises really demonstrated this. As soon as it drifted into Batman saving the city from a Nuclear Bomb, the film lost its way. This Batman wouldn’t fit into a unified DC Cinematic Universe. In this Universe, the suspension of disbelief shouldn’t exist. For example, as soon as they tried to explain the preceding eight years, the story was on shaky ground. Bruce Wayne falling out of public view and Batman disappearing should have been a HUGE tip off about to EVERYBODY as to who Batman was but only two people in the whole damn movie figured this out.
In order for DC’s Cinematic Universe to work, the Nolan Batman Universe had to end. I just wish we could have had a stronger closing chapter.